Business & Finance

A four-day strike against SBC Communications was to begin at midnight Thursday by 102,000 unionized employees in 13 states over stalled contract negotiations. Communications Workers of America members have been critical of SBC's positions on healthcare costs and job security. The nation's second-largest local telephone service provider has proposed pay increases but also higher copayments by employees for medical benefits.

US Airways, which has cut operating costs by $1.5 billion during bankruptcy reorganization, told shareholders at its annual meeting Wednesday that it needs $800 million more in concessions from employees by the end of September. But the carrier, which is struggling to compete against low-cost rivals such as Southwest and JetBlue, appeared on a collision course with unions representing its employees, which have said they're opposed to asking members for any concessions beyond the $1.2 billion already agreed to.

A Superior Court judge stepped into the Air Canada crisis, ordering the carrier and the union representing its ticket and reservations agents to resume negotiations immediately on $32.4 million in concessions that the former broke off Wednesday night. Negotiators for the airline said the talks in Toronto had reached an impasse and did not "warrant continuation." The Canadian Auto Workers is the only one of seven unions representing Air Canada employees that has balked at pay and other givebacks. The airline's bankruptcy protection is scheduled to expire Friday, and liquidation of its assets could be ordered if a restructuring plan cannot be completed and win court approval.

A $2.7 billion deal that will result in the largest investment trust company in Japan has been agreed to, Tokyo's Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported. It said UFJ Holdings Inc. officially will announce the sale of its trust bank to rival Sumitomo as soon as their respective boards of directors approve. Their combined operations will exceed those of industry leader Mitsubishi Trust & Banking Corp., which has $17.7 billion in assets under management.

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